Men's Swimming & Diving Championshps Kick Off Friday
Feb. 15, 2007
Some of the nation's top aquatic talent will converge upon the Ohio State University campus and the Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion this weekend at the Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. Few collegiate swim meets are filled with as much talent as the Big Ten Championships, and this year is no exception. During the regular season, many Big Ten swimmers have posted times that are among the nation's best, and more national qualifying times are sure to be set this weekend when the Men's Swimming and Diving Championships are hosted by Ohio State University. The event will feature six teams (No. 6 Northwestern, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 11 Indiana, No. 12 Michigan, No. 13 Ohio State and No. 18 Purdue) ranked in the latest CSCAA Top 25 and one more (Wisconsin) that is receiving votes outside the poll. This year's field is as strong as ever, and will again prove to be one of the marquee swimming events in the country with a field that has posted over 56 times that qualify at least provisionally for the NCAA Championships.
The event, originally scheduled to begin on Thursday, Feb. 15, will now start one day later on Friday, Feb. 16, after severe weather in the Midwest caused many travel difficulties for the teams.
The Indiana Hoosiers claimed their first championship in 21 years in their home pool last year, and are looking for their first back-to-back conference crowns since 1984-85. They will hope to do it with four-time Diver of the Week, Taylor Roberts, last year's winner off the three-meter board, while the Northwestern Wildcats lead the league behind all-around swimming sensation Matt Grevers.
The Wildcat senior will also be aiming for his second-straight 100-yard freestyle crown and first-ever in the 200. With the graduation of Michigan freestyle phenom Peter Vanderkaay, the event is wide open, and Grevers boasts the best time in the nation with a 1:34.21 performance that is an A-standard qualification for the NCAA Championships. Anchoring Northwestern's efforts in the freestyle sprints is Grevers' teammate Kyle Bubolz, who finished close behind him in the 50- and 100-yard events last year. Minnesota's Igor Cerensek will also be a danger to Grevers' dominance after medaling in both the 50 and 100 last year.
In the 200, the Wildcats' Eric Nilsson owns a B-standard time of 1:36.75 that ranks second in the conference. After watching Vanderkaay rack up his fourth-straight gold in the 500 at last year's championships, Nilsson has a prime opportunity to take over the title as he leads the Big Ten in the 500 with a provisional qualifying time of 4:20.84. Ohio State's George Markovic (4:24.22) and last year's bronze medalist Matt Patton (4:24.47) of Michigan are the only other conference swimmers who already meet NCAA qualifying standards in the event.
Patton also holds the time-to-beat in the 1650 free with a B-standard performance of 15:07.37 that stands among the top five times in the nation. Markovic and his Buckeye teammate Mark Neiman both rank in the top 15 and have posted provisional qualifying times, as well, while five other Big Ten swimmers are among the 25 best in the country.
Northwestern opened the 2005 championships by winning the 200-yard freestyle relay championship with the third-best time in Big Ten history. This year, Grevers anchors a team of Mike Alexandrov, Kyle Bubolz and Bruno Barbic that leads the conference and is sixth nationally with a provisional qualifying time of 1:19.72. The crew also boasts the nation's third-fastest time in the 400-yard relay, but reigning Big Ten champion Minnesota returns a relay crew now far behind. The Gophers' team ranks sixth in the 200-yard event and third with another provisional qualifying time (2:56.79) in the 400.
Another one of the Wildcats' most dominant swimmers in school history, Mike Alexandrov joins the unit for the 800-yard freestyle relay team that paces the nation with a Northwestern-record time of 6:26.17. Minnesota, led by Cerensek, posted the nation's fourth-fastest time in December. Ohio State also ranks among the nation's best with an 11th-ranked time of 6:36.78 that is also an NCAA B-standard time.
The 400-yard version of the event will be just as competitive, but the Wildcats look poised for their fourth-straight victory in the 400-yard IM relay with Grevers, Alexandrov and Bubolz leading the way. The group's season-best time of 3:10.87 is the second-fastest in the country and earned them an A-standard ticket to the NCAA Championships, while the Gophers' top-5 time of 3:13.79 was good for a B-standard qualification.
His teammate Grevers is the only other Big Ten swimmer to have met the A-standard in the event, with a season-best 46.96. Ohio State's Joseph Doyle and Wisconsin's Scott Rice are not far behind the Wildcat duo with B-standard times. IN the 200-yard version, Rice posted a top-5 time of 1:45.80 in December that leads the Big Ten. He and Nilsson both own provisional qualifying times in the event, while Vanderkaay will look to qualify for NCAAs and improve on this runner-up finish from last year.